Friday, September 30, 2011


I saw this on the tire of the Jeep in front of me as I drove into Lake Placid to pick up Tom from work this afternoon. And surprisingly, after having a few days of really dark thoughts and feeling very frustrated with my latest set of digestive problems, I actually ended this day feeling pretty good.

I had a good appointment with my doctor. I am so thankful that I have her as my primary care physician. She is a wonderful, wonderful woman who is not just an excellent doctor, but also has the best bedside manner of any physician I've seen, ever. She suggested to me that I start acupuncture for my digestive issues because of its effect on the autonomous nervous system, and she was pleased when I told her that I've already started. She reassured me that this is nothing more than a gallbladder with attitude, and there's really nothing else we can do for it right now. She doesn't want to push me into surgery, and that's fine with me, because I think I'd have to be a LOT sicker than I am now to go that route.

The nice thing about my acupuncturist is that she's an M.D. She KNOWS this stuff. She knows what works and what doesn't work, and like I said yesterday, she completely understands that I just have one of those bodies that doesn't respond well to Western medicine. So, I'm feeling very optimistic about things after this last set of appointments.

On my way home from the doctor, I stopped in at the local natural foods store to find out if they had any ready-made seitan for a dish I wanted to cook for the potluck tonight, but they were all out. However, when I noticed that they now stock my friend Andrea's organic jams, I mentioned to the girl behind the counter that I knew Andrea from the farmer's markets where I used to sell my work. She asked me what kind of work, and I said beaded jewelry. She looked at me funny. "What's your name?" she asked. I told her. She said, "Oh my gosh! You're the Jennifer that Annie talks about all the time! You were supposed to be at the party yesterday!" Turns out that my friend Annie is friends with this gal, Kate, and Kate does some fabulous bead embroidery and resin jewelry! We exchanged numbers quickly because I had to get home in time for a meeting, but it just made me feel all warm inside to have met another fellow beader who totally understands the addiction as much as I do! (Also gave me a great idea for a blog post about craft junkies, which is, after all, what we really are...)

Then I cooked up another batch of Swiss chard and barley stew, and we went to the potluck Autumn Harvest Dinner at Colden's preschool. So much fun. So much food! Colden got to see his friends again, we all had a great dinner, did some socializing, and then Miss Mona (Colden's teacher) told them a story before we all left.

It's nearly bedtime. Colden is out in the garage workshop with Daddy, doing "man things". (Have no idea what those are, but they're having a good time.) It's chilly tonight, so we'll be piling up a few extra blankets.

We have fresh apples from the orchard. Tomorrow, Colden has a playdate in the morning with his friend Yossi, and Yossi's mom, Martha, and I will get to catch up with each other. Colden and I will bring freshly baked muffins with jam centers.

I have three beading projects on my table for next week. I have a job that I love, a beautiful family, and the best friends a person could ask for.

So, yeah. Life is good.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


So,  one of the things that I have available to me through my (wonderful) new job is this health flex account. I can use it to cover medical co-pays and my dental co-pays (ginormous) and I can also use it to cover the costs for massage therapy at my chiropractor and acupuncture. If you've never had a therapeutic massage or acupuncture treatment, you have no idea how huge this is for me. For years, struggling with migraines, nothing seemed to help until I started getting regular chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic massage.

In July, I went for my first massage in nearly four years, and it was every bit as wonderful as I remembered it. But the first thing that the massage therapist said to me as we started was that I needed to get grounded - she said that she could sense my energies swinging back and forth, which was totally on the mark and a little frightening because it was as if she were reading my thoughts as I tried to relax and follow my breath.

This morning I had another much-needed massage to try to help with this lower back pain and the digestive issues I've been having since August. Both of these things have caused a lot of stress for me (and Tom and Colden, naturally) and I finally decided that while going to the doctor and following her recommendations for treatments was a good thing, I needed to do something else to get myself grounded and relaxed so that I could deal with all of this.

It was a rough morning. Colden hasn't been sleeping well for the last three nights - he's been awake about every forty-five minutes, asking for milk and juice and then yanking the crap out of my hair as he tries to go back to sleep - and Tom and I are feeling stressed out and not well-rested at all. I was late dropping Colden off at Oma and Opa's house, and feeling more than a little wound up and strung out when I got to the chiropractor's office. Well, as soon as Dawn, the massage therapist, took me into the room, she gave me a new relaxation technique to try that involved a series of counted breaths and a position holding your arms out, palms up.

After two breaths this way, I could feel the tension starting to drain from my head and my neck. A few seconds later, I remembered her recommendation to me to get myself grounded, picturing myself as a giant tree with roots going deep into the Earth, my arms and my torso being the trunk and beautiful branches reaching up to the sky. As I did this, she said quietly, "Now, imagine yourself as a tree and get grounded again."

Mind-reading? Maybe not. My sister-in-law, who has been to massage school, has said that this particular type of massage is like "reading minds" because you need to be in tune with the energies of the person you are working with. And Dawn is very, very, very good at that. She can zero in on what is hurting me or causing me distress, and she can make it go away.

So as I was lying there this morning, focusing on my breathing and relaxing each part of my body as she worked, I came to the realization that my body works a little differently than other people that I know. I'm very sensitive to Western medical treatments - if there's a side effect associated with a drug, chances are that I'll get it. I bruise easily when it comes to drawing blood, and I have a wicked gag reflex that makes things like throat cultures and routine dental work horrific for both myself and the doctor or dentist trying to perform the procedures. But what I have noticed is that my body responds to things like massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture, and it responds very well.

Now, I'm not poo-pooing Western medicine. It works very well in some cases. If we hadn't had the option of having a c-section when I was in labor with Colden, we both would probably have ended up being statistics. And I am deeply grateful for antibiotics for the times that Colden and I both had pneumonia. But I just wish that there were more doctors (like mine) who recommended "alternative" therapies like massage and acupuncture, or at least who wouldn't scare the crap out of patients when they ask about them.

The doctor who is the owner of the practice where I go is pretty much clueless when it comes to things like vegetarian diets, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture, so I do my best to avoid seeing him if at all possible. But on those occasions when he is the care provider on duty and I have no other choice, I'll go to let him make sure that there's nothing seriously wrong with me (because he is a good doctor, even if his bedside manner is horrible) and then I'll work with my acupuncturist or massage therapist to come up with an alternate plan of treatment.

Maybe it's just because I'm more comfortable with a less medically aggressive treatment option. Maybe it's because 99% of my problem is that I've never been very good at handling stress. Or maybe it's because these things actually WORK. These therapies have, after all, been around for thousands of years. We can't pinpoint exactly how they work in a laboratory, but they work.

I walked out of that chiropractor's office feeling better than I've felt in WEEKS. I was relaxed, refreshed, my sore back wasn't sore anymore, my stomach wasn't rumbling or queasy, and I felt ready to tackle the rest of my day. It wasn't just my physical self that felt better, my mental state was vastly improved, too.

So, tomorrow I go back to my regular physician to talk about the next steps in figuring out what's going on with my poor digestive system and what kinds of diagnostic tests we'll do and when. But after I'm finished there, I'll be stopping at the acupuncturist's office and setting up my next series of appointments.

So this is what I learned about myself today. Funny that I never really thought about it like this before, but there it is.

Oh, and the grounding part? Dawn is right on with that. She knows her stuff, let me tell you. I think as an artist and a writer, it becomes very easy for me to get lost, off in the clouds with my thoughts or my ideas. Working online just sort of adds to that ethereal ditziness, too. I need to make more of an effort to be present in my life when I'm not dreaming up ideas or writing or dreaming about what to write next. And it won't happen overnight, but that's what I need to do. I think all artists need to make that effort to become more grounded - otherwise, we'll all become the hazy, shadowy, absent-minded artist-figures that everyone thinks we are!

More on my Bead Riffs project later. I finished the latest project, and am gearing up for something bigger now...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Night in Tunisia

Okay, so why the hell did I choose Swarovski crystals in Siam?! Huh? Why?

I didn't like those milky pink crystals pictured in the project. No, I thought I would go with something different, something BOLD! Yikes. I think I own about one red sweater, and I only wear the damn thing on Valentine's Day. I have about a dozen tubes of red seed beads, compared to the hundreds of browns, greens, blues, pinks and other earth tones that I own.

So WHY did I choose Siam for this project? I thought the silver-lined red would look beautiful with the gunmetal grey seed beads. But now the problem becomes finding other colors of seed beads that look good with the red and the grey.

Colden and I scoured my seed bead collection. We took out hundreds of tubes of size 8s and 15s and spread them on the floor next to the gunmetal and the silver lined red. And I couldn't find any that I liked.

I finally settled on using some silver lined red size 8s (cop out, since they match the size 11s) and some silver-grey metallic lined 15s.

I just realized that I haven't done a single necklace from this book yet - this will be the first! If I can get it whipped up before the weekend, I just might have to go to Target and buy a red or a grey t-shirt to wear with it...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shake Yer Groove Thang

Okay, okay, the project was just called "Groove", but darn it, I couldn't get that song out of my head while I was stitching up these earrings and the ring!

The only problem I had with these was my tension. At first, I was afraid to stitch too tightly because I wasn't sure how the pattern was going to work out. But after I finished the first earring and started in on the second, I saw that I could stitch with a tight tension and it actually made it easier to add the bumps and finial beads!

I didn't like the way that the tops and bottoms collapsed in on me while I was adding the bumps around the sides, but once those bumps were stitched, the earrings had a lot more body. They worked up surprisingly fast - it was like they should have been in the "Easier Than They Look" chapter.

When I ordered the 2mm gold beads for this project, I threw in some extras because I knew that I wanted to make a matching ring. And it came out beautifully:

Yes, there was a little bit of thread showing on this project. I didn't know how else to make it go away. The project called for blue thread, but I used my green Wildfire instead, which looks just as good with the olive-green seed beads.

Fun, fun, fun! These stitched up so easily, I was genuinely surprised at how fast they went. I started them yesterday afternoon while Colden was painting and put the finishing touches on the ring this morning while I was waiting for my oatmeal to cool.

I started feeling a little panicked about how quickly these projects were working up, until I sat down to look at what's ahead of me. Reading a right-angle weave graph. Adding hundreds of bumps and rose montees as embellishment to a necklace. Joining dozens of liquid silver bead components to jump rings. And I gave myself a year to complete all of these projects? I better hope those rose montees and chaton montees come sooner rather than later so I can finish knocking off all the "little" projects in this book and get on to the big ones!

Colden has conked out for a nap, and I have a choice: do I go try to catch a quick nap, take a hot bath with a piece of chocolate and a good book, do the dishes and clean the kitchen, or go rummage through the basement and look for my 1/4" plastic tubing for the two projects that call for it?

I'm thinking that the bath and the chocolate are going to win here...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Addicted to High Style

I started working on High Times last night. I couldn't stand it - that little baggie of shiny copper beads was just teasing me. They were begging me to dump them out in a little pile and start stitching with them. So after Colden went to bed, that's what I did. (The poor kid was finally feeling better, but he was totally exhausted. He ate a HUGE dinner, came into the bedroom to snuggle with me for a few minutes and just conked right out before eight.)

Once I started stitching the base, it was damn near impossible for me to stop. Seriously. There's something about the rhythm of right angle weave that just hooks me. I can feel something click in my brain and there's that rush of serotonin...almost like eating dark chocolate.

What I discovered, though, was that stitching with these 2mm copper beads was NOT like stitching with regular seed beads. I had to slide them onto the thread past the eye of the needle. The holes got stuck on the needle. And there wasn't any way to just scoop them up with the needle like I usually do with seed beads - I either had to put them on by hand or pick them up one at a time with the needle. Ack!

Then, like I said before, I don't like it when I can't picture how the piece will come together from instructions. This was the case with the start of this bracelet. I just couldn't figure it out. As I was stitching it, I felt the light bulb come on: this was a cubic right angle weave bangle bracelet! Made with metal rounds! Oh my God, it suddenly felt a lot more intimidating...

I sat down and put on 3rd Rock From the Sun, and I told myself that I would stop beading at nine o clock and go to bed. Nine came and went. Okay, I thought, I'll stop at nine-thirty. Pretty soon, I was telling myself that I would stop at ten. Finally, at ten forty-five, I had to quit. My eyes were so tired that they felt puffy and my sinuses were telling me to get some sleep. So I reluctantly put the beading aside and went to bed.

One thing I realized as I was working, though, is that I'm going to need more copper beads. Something else I don't like is when I run out of beads in the middle of a project! I can't stand it - it drives me nuts to have to put down a project right in the middle of the stitching because I've run out of beads. Darn it. And what kills me is that I thought I had way more beads than I needed for this!

I had ordered a package of 1,000 2mm copper beads. I figured that would be plenty - the instructions in the book said that the bracelet pictured used 960 beads and I only added one extra unit to make sure that the bangle would fit around my oddly enormous knuckles. I finished six bumps and I only have enough beads left to make maybe another six bumps! Even when I did the math, it came out that I should have had plenty of beads to finish this bracelet. I have no idea what happened. I know I didn't spill any on the floor, but on the other hand, I didn't count every single bead that was in the bag when I got the order last week.

Nothing to do now but wait for the rest of the beads to arrive next week.

When I looked at the bracelet this morning, I realized that the bright, shiny copper beads that I was stitching the night before had turned dark and dull overnight. I was a little disappointed at first, but then I realized that the only pair of copper earrings that I own have a dull finish. So at least the two pieces will match when I finish the bracelet...

My plan for now is to finish this bracelet, and then move on to another quick project while I wait for the rest of the beads. Maybe a pair of earrings with a matching ring over the weekend is the thing to do...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

High Style

I'm 2 hours into the next project, High Style, and I've realized a few things:

1. Beading with 2mm metal round beads is NOT the same as beading with size 11 seed beads. It's much harder.
2. Somehow, I've been roped into doing a cubic right angle weave bangle bracelet without realizing it.
3. I'm gonna need a lot more of these copper beads. 1,000 of them weren't enough!

Time for bed...

Two-Beat Finished!

I finished it! Despite everything that was going on today... Last night, Colden didn't want anything for dinner. Not terribly unusual, he eats really well during the day, so we usually just let him nibble and then give him a snack. Sandy said that he didn't seem himself at their place yesterday, and he was acting strange while I was fixing dinner - he would suddenly just start crying and saying, "Moooommm-y!" We figured maybe he was just being needy. Then Tom got on the phone with Kathy, and Colden started crying again. This time, he came running at me, and - BLEAH! - just projectile vomited all over the floor.

We got him cleaned up and snuggled into bed with me, and he eventually started acting a little better and went to sleep. In the morning, he was acting more like himself and he asked Tom for some peanut butter crackers. Tom gave him one peanut butter cracker sandwich and some juice, and Colden came back into bed with me and threw up again.

Taking him to the dentist in Burlington didn't really seem like an option at that point, so after I got Colden cleaned up again and settled into bed, I called and canceled our appointment and then called the pediatrician. Everything checked out okay at the pediatrician, and we went home to let Colden rest and watch Diego for a while.

I took the opportunity to finish the last link in Two-Beat and attach everything together! And here it is! Yay! Second project down!

I love this bracelet. I loved making the beaded beads. I loved making the toggle and attaching it to the pieces of chain. I love the colors I picked for this bracelet - it will go with pretty much everything I have in my closet.

What I discovered while making these beaded beads was that I was really afraid of making those beaded beads with the size 15s! Like, seriously afraid. I whipped through the size 11 beaded beads with no problems, but when it came time to sit down with those teeny tiny beads...I felt like I had to fight myself to use them.

I made the clasp right after I made the first two beaded beads, thinking that it would be a good way for me to estimate the number of beads I needed for the bracelet. I also thought that maybe working with those size 15s on the clasp would limber me up for making the rest of the beaded beads...but it didn't. I still had to fight myself to sit down and make those tiny beaded beads!

As I stitched up the toggle bar with the 15s, I kept thinking to myself, "How many more of these clasps do I have to do?"

I've been looking through the projects and through my beads to see which of the projects I can start next without having to buy anything else. The other bracelet projects that call for a 7-strand 41mm silver tube clasp have me a little worried: the instructions call for me to nip off three of the loops on the clasp. Honestly, the thought of mauling a $35 silver clasp just makes me shiver. Am I going to be able to do it?

And now, I'm going for a break. I've been sick as a dog since Tuesday night, sneezing and coughing and blowing my nose... I was completely miserable last night, sinuses aching so bad I thought I was going to pass out. I think a nice hot bath and a piece of chocolate are in order for this afternoon...and I'll decide which project to tackle next!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This is what was in my post office box the other morning:

My order from Fusion Beads! Sterling and gold-filled seamless rounds, a big bag of tiny 2mm copper rounds, some Swarovski rounds, bicones and sequins, a length of chain, a clasp, two sets of ear wires... And all of this was $117?! For real?!

I was really stunned at how much all of this came to when I was placing my order. On the computer screen, it looked like a lot: all those neatly itemized little lines with the numbers and the cost. And then I realized, as I was waiting for my order to arrive, that all of these items would fit perfectly in a teeny tiny little padded envelope that was small enough to fit right into my post office box. Wowza.

So, please, no one tell my husband how much all of this cost...

The upshot is that these supplies are enough for me to make five more projects from the book: two pairs of earrings (once I get the rose montees from Rachel), a necklace, a ring and a bracelet. I can't wait to jump into them, but first I need to finish Two-Step this week.

And in other news... The Keene farmer's market was open again this week after being closed since Irene tore up the roads. This was the first time that 9N from Jay to Keene was open, and the first time that route 73 was open through Keene since the storm. Upper Jay and Keene just looked like a war zone: trees down, roads still washed out and ripped up, the remains of houses and buildings flattened and waiting to be cleaned up. A total mess. So I went and did my bit and spent some money at the farmer's market. We bought some gourmet cupcakes, jam from my friend Andrea, and I even picked up a couple of hand cut gemstone cabochons:

I just know I've got the perfect gemstone beads to accent these... So in all my spare time, I'll start stitching them up, right?

Crappy, cold, rainy, grey day here today. Bundled Colden up extra well this morning for his outdoor playtime at Miss Mona's. Barley and Swiss chard stew for dinner tonight, and hot chocolate right now to get me through the afternoon...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Bead Soup Blog Party!

And of course, here I am, late to the party as always...

My partner, Kim Hora, sent me this:

I was totally in love with these gorgeous handmade enamel rings that she sent. Kim even sent me an extra ring to play with later! I had no idea what to do with any of them, and they were certainly out of my comfort zone, even though I loved the colors. I just don't do that much with metals!

A trip to my local Michael's craft store and some new brass chain was what I needed. I came home, sat down with the chain and my headpins, and created this:

Totally NOT what I usually do, but it's still my style! I think I'm going to get a lot of wear out of this necklace - in fact, I'm wearing it right now!

I loved playing with different combinations of beads and those filigree bead caps on the headpins. That brass flower was going to get used, no matter what, I decided. I decided to save the dragonfly for another project - and besides, Colden likes to come up to my work pad (where the dragonfly currently lives), gently lift it up and make it "fly" away across the house for a little while.

Thanks so much to Lori for making this all happen! I can't imagine what kind of work goes into pulling off something like this. This is my third Bead Soup Blog Party, and I can't wait to sign up for the next one!

If you want to see all of the gorgeous designs that were made around the world in this Bead Soup Blog Party, you can find the whole list here. And make sure you drop by Lori's blog and take a look at her Bead Soup pieces - absolutely gorgeous!

And now, I go take a rest. Tom and his friend have been on the roof all day, tearing off shingles and putting on paper, and it sounds like they are starting to hammer down another layer of something. Colden and I went to Plattsburgh and ran errands, then I came home and put away all the groceries, made lunch, did the dishes, and ran to get sandwiches for the guys and the kids. And of course, I discovered that we had no frozen peas and no more sliced almonds in the freezer for tonight's dinner. Figures. So, a little rest for me before I have to get back in the car and go up to AuSable Forks and get stuff for dinner.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Starting Two-Beat

I really hate it when I read a set of beading instructions and I just can't picture how the piece comes together. I really hate that. And that's how I was feeling as I read over the instructions for Two-Beat, the next project I decided to tackle. I read about making the base, adding the bumps, adding the chain...and I just could not picture how it was all supposed to come together. I looked at the picture of the finished beaded beads attached by links of chain...and I could not figure out how it was going to work.

So, I just said, to hell with it, here we go.

I started with the size 11 beads because I didn't think I wanted to attempt this with the size 15s before I knew what the hell I was doing! And sure enough, the bead came together! I was envisioning it all wrong, and it took me a grand total of about five minutes to finish this bead.

Cutting the chain took me a little longer. Believe it or not, I had a heck of a time cutting that tiny little chain into three-link sections. My huge cutters made it hard to nip off the chain at every fourth link, but I discovered a new use for my bead scoop: scooping up the tiny little bits of chain that soon littered my work surface. Yikes.

After finishing that first beaded bead, I thought I'd make the toggle clasp so that I could easily figure out how many beaded beads I would need for the bracelet. So I took out those fun plastic rings that I found at Michael's over the weekend and the size 15 seed beads and started to stitch tubular right angle weave around the ring.

Wow. It has probably been way too long since I tried to do something like this with size 15 seed beads. Or maybe it was just the Full Moon Effect making me nuts, but those first few rounds were like dental-chair torture. Beads slipping everywhere, needles stuck into fingers... Yeouch! But after I got into a rhythm, it went surprisingly fast.

For the toggle bars, I found that I could cut up my trashed (bent) beadmaking mandrels and they would make perfect bars to bead around. I really loved using those heavy duty cutters and then the sanding machine to smooth the ends out. Something satisfying about using machinery like that. Makes me feel sort of...industrial?

How many more of these toggles do I have to make? Ha! I knew this was going to be a learning experience, and so far, I've learned that I need to do more beading! I'm almost dreading making those other beaded beads with the size 15s. Sooooo tiny! What's happened to me? I never used to shy away from using those little beads!

Still waiting on my order from Fusion Beads, and this morning I went ahead and ordered all the rose montees and chaton montees that I need for every project in the book. So there's no turning back now!

Once the stuff from Fusion Beads gets here, I'll have everything I need to make High Style, Night in Tunisia, Groove (earrings and a matching ring) and Nightingale. Five projects that worked out to about twenty bucks each for materials. Not bad for handmade jewelry, eh?

Time for lunch. More beading tonight, if I can get Colden to bed at a decent hour and without too much fuss! Bedtimes have been absolute torture lately. And even when we can get him to go to sleep, he wakes up every 90 minutes and cries for milk and juice. I hope this is just a phase and that he gets through it quickly, because I need some sleep. Again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

Ten years ago, at around 8:46 in the morning, I was just getting off I-87, the Northway, at Exit 37, heading to my classes at Plattsburgh State University. That was where I first heard the report on NPR of a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center buildings. I remember standing in line for my morning bagel and hot chocolate and watching the television with everyone else, still in disbelief, as the second plane crashed.

This morning, ten years later, and on a Sunday, I found myself getting off at Exit 37 on I-87, heading into Plattsburgh once again, but this time, with Colden in the backseat. We were heading to Target to do some last-minute preschool shopping for him. (New t-shirts and socks, since he has totally outgrown everything I bought for him last year at this time.)

It was strange being in Plattsburgh again at the same time, exactly ten years later. Target was quiet. Everyone seemed subdued. There was very little traffic this morning.

Tonight, we'll cook a big meal together and eat out on the picnic table, playing in the back yard and watching the sun go down. And we will remember.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Believe

On this, the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I just want to share a little bit of what has been going through my head. There is a part of me that feels I should not share this with anyone, but there's another part of me, a stronger part that knows I have the courage of my convictions to support me. So here it goes.

Someone that I used to work with (and whom I still greatly admire for her dedication to her family, her intelligence and her embrace of her creative side - you know who you are!) once told me that I would make a great lawyer because I have a very strong sense of justice. That was something that made me proud. I think my father also once implied something along those lines when he told me that I was a "good kid" after expressing to him my frustration about a family disagreement when I was a teenager.

Let me explain what a strong sense of justice is to me... In this country, the Tea Party, as far as I can tell, is probably the biggest threat to our security as Americans. I feel it is a bigger threat than any religious zealot in a far-flung country, bigger than any kind of "home bred" terrorism. Why is it such a threat? Because it is tearing this country apart from within.

We have children in this country who go to bed hungry every single night. We have record unemployment rates. We have people losing their homes because of unregulated practices on Wall Street. We have an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in our country RIGHT NOW. And all the Tea Party seems to care about is cutting government spending - even if it is at the expense of our children, our compassion for one another and the future of this country.

We can withstand an attack from outside - 9/11 clearly showed that. Americans came together in a way unseen since the second World War. It was an amazing and moving experience for me to live through that in my small community in the North Country. But how much longer can we allow the politicians to put their own self-interests (as well as the special interests who line their pockets) ahead of what is best for our nation as a whole? Do we really need to listen to our elected leaders talk about how PRAYER will solve everything? Hey, even the Islamic extremists don't rely on prayer alone. No, they've seen how powerful the use of guns and bombs and hijacked airplanes can be when you want to accomplish something. (Note that I am not condoning or sanctioning violence of any sort at any time. I just want to establish the difference between taking concrete action and simply sitting around, looking at the sky and waiting for something to happen.)

When someone tells me that they want to eliminate an "entitlement" program like Medicare or Social Security, I start to see red. Entitlement is a bad word now? You can be damn sure that if I pay into Social Security for my entire working life (and I started working when I was 16, just so you know) I sure as hell feel like I'm "entitled" to draw on that money if and when I decided to retire!

When the GOP presidential candidates start talking about eliminating Medicare and Social Security, I cringe. We do not live in a "welfare state", as many believe. Far from it. I have worked hard my entire adult life, and I continue to do so. But I also understand that there are many, many people in this country who have not had the same opportunities that I have had, regardless of all this nonsense talk of "equality" that the politicians like to spew at you. Should we just ignore the folks who were not born to wealthy parents? Are their lives not worth the same as mine? Do they have less of a right to peace of mind and well-being? And most importantly, should our government be responsible for assisting its citizens in becoming productive members of society if they can't do it on their own?

When Michelle Bachman starts to talk gibberish about dismantling the Department of Education, I cringe. My husband and I are going to send our son to public school. What happens to the population when there is no government mandate to educate them? Do we simply accept our fall from one of the most literate, educated countries in the world because no one in the government cares enough to make sure that we educate our children? What happens to the economy when you are faced with an entire citizenry of uneducated workers who are barely qualified to run a cash register because they lack basic math skills? How is slashing education budgets going to HELP our economy?

So here is where I think the Tea Party got it wrong. I would challenge any of them to go live in a country - say, sub-Saharan Africa - where there are NO government services. No clean water. No sewer system. No public roads. No public health care for the very poor or the elderly. No government unemployment insurance. Go live there for ten years. See what your life is like. And then after you've experienced how the other 90% of the world lives, only then can you be allowed to come back into America where we have a government that provides all these things that you take for granted every single day of your miserable lives.

And speaking of "equality" back there - why do the politicians seem to think that if all men are created equal, some of them should shoulder more of the tax burden than others? How does that make any sense at all? If we are all equal in the eyes of the government, then we should all pay an equal share of taxes. My husband and I work damn hard. And we pay nearly 34% of our income in taxes. Why does Joe Q. Millionaire only have to pay 3% or 4% of his income in taxes? Because he earns more money? What kind of weird political logic is that? If cutting the taxes of the fabulously wealthy creates more jobs, why are we still seeing record unemployment in this country? Doesn't anybody else see these things as totally outrageous and inherently unjust? (Note: I did not use the word "fair". Life is not fair. I understand that. What I am concerned with here is a sense of JUSTICE. We are talking right and wrong here, people. That's the difference between your parents telling you that life isn't always fair because you didn't make the cheerleading squad and a murderer walking free because of a lack of evidence, which, sadly, I have personal experience of.)

So here is what I suggest. We need to change the way our system works. We need to get rid of the special interests. Lobbying by special interests to the American government should become, as of this very second, illegal. If anyone is caught lobbying to an elected representative in the United States government, they are sent to jail for the rest of their lives. Sure, we designed the lobbying program to ensure that things were done "fairly" - but what we have created is a system that is UNJUST, where the corporation with the most money wins and the rest of us can go to hell and eat rice gruel while our children starve and their minds wither because we have no government that can provide services and jobs for its citizens. Is it really right that the huge corporations with the best lawyers and the most money to buy their politicians get all the perks? Is that really what America is all about?

I'd like to think not.

If the Tea Party wants to vent their anger about something, how about they vent their anger towards the illegal wars that we have been entrenched in since 2001. How about they vent their anger about the FACT that corporations receive multi-billion dollar bailouts while there are MILLIONS of children in this country who go to bed hungry every single fucking night. Yeah, I'm pretty outraged about that. How about they vent their anger about the fact that there are people in this country, the most prosperous country in the entire fucking WORLD, who are dying of appendicitis and pneumonia because they can't afford to see a doctor? How about they get angry about THAT? What would a world like that look like?

Back in the day, the politicians, the GOP, even, were most concerned with providing social services to the poor and the elderly; protecting the environment; and ensuring that no one in this country went hungry. What happened to those days? Have we coddled our politicians so much, made them so powerful, that they really don't care about the people that they are elected to govern?

Now, after reading this, you might just want to dismiss me as just another uneducated liberal. Go ahead. But in thirty years, when you are ready to quit working and spend some time with your family and friends during the last years of your life and you find that your government-ensured safety net is GONE...don't come crying to me. Because I care about this country. I care about its citizens. I care about making sure that no one goes without food, or without an education or clean water or decent health care. If that makes me a liberal or (God forbid!) a socialist or whatever the fuck label you want to slap on me, I can live with that. Because no matter what else you call me, I am, above all else, a decent human being.

I can only hope that there are few of those left in Washington, D.C., too.

Friday, September 09, 2011


A little political "humor" from my husband last night:

A woman goes to have her hair cut at the local barbershop. When she asks the barber how much for the cut, he says, "Oh, no. I'm doing this as a community service. You're the best florist in town and you do your job so well, this hair cut is free." The woman thanks him profusely and goes home. The next morning, the barber comes to his shop and finds a thank-you card and a dozen roses.

Then a local police officer comes in for a hair cut. When he asks how much for the cut, the barber tells him, "Oh, no charge for you, sir. I'm doing this as a service to the community. You do so much to keep our community safe, so this hair cut is on the house." The police officer thanks him and goes home. The next morning, the barber arrives at his shop and finds a thank-you card and a dozen donuts.

That day, a local Congressman arrives for a hair cut. Once again, when he asks the price of the hair cut, the barber tells him, "Oh, no, this cut is on the house. You do so much to serve our country, I'm doing this as a community service." The Congressman shakes his hand, thanks him, and leaves.

The next morning, the barber arrives at his shop and finds a dozen Congressman lined up for free hair cuts.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

First Project Done!

I finally finished the database with all the beads and findings that I'm going to need for these projects, and dang! I found a source for the rose montees and the chaton montees - Rachel's own website! I tallied up how many I would need - including enough for all the versions of the Five-Piece Band rings and a few extras in case I lose a couple - and it's going to be a hefty investment for me. Instead, I think I'm just going to buy them in batches - all the rose montees first, and then the chaton montees later. I also just placed an order from Fusion Beads for all of the earring project supplies and one set of necklace supplies.

And there are more projects that I can make right now, like the Two-Beat bracelet, and maybe even the Something Cool bracelet. (Although I'm not too sure about the Something Cool bracelet - I have some drop beads, but they don't look as drop-y as the beads that Rachel uses in that bracelet.)

At first, I thought I was going to make each project from the book in the exact same colors as they were pictured. Then I started thinking, no, maybe this is a way for me to experiment with my own sense of color while working on Rachel's projects and designs. While some of them will be made exactly as she has them pictured, I think I am going to inject my own color sense into as many of them as I can, using the beads that I already have. (Because I hate choosing bead colors on the computer!)

The first project that I finished this morning were here Sassy earrings. What better place to start? They were inspired by Sarah Vaughan, a fellow Jersey girl, and I just happened to have all of the seed beads handy to make them, including those yummy matte avocado size 15s:

They are made with Rachel's signature "bumps", similar to those in her Ootheca beadwork, and they were a lot more difficult to do than I remember!

These were interesting because of the change in sizes going from a 5x5 bump to a 3x3.

This is what the base looked like before I added all those widdle bumps!

So, now I'm off! More work to do, including a long-overdue stitch workshop for Beading Daily, and I have to go choose some colors for my next project or two... I've got some gorgeous vintage brass chain that would be perfect for the next bracelet I attempt!

And in case you missed my previous post, I'm giving away a copy of Rachel Nelson-Smith's Bead Riffs - check out the blog post, leave a comment (or two or three) and I'll pick a winner next week!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Rachel Nelson-Smith's Bead Riffs - and a Giveaway!

Okay, so first off, I just want to say: this book is a masterpiece. Being a musician myself, I totally related to how Rachel drew comparisons between music (in her case, jazz) and the art and craft of beadweaving. I loved the way she used names from her favorite jazz standards as names for her beaded creations. I loved the way she used Swarovski crystals - instead of over-the-top bling (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, just something I'm not personally fond of) she uses them as accents, undertones to the rich colors of seed beads that take center stage.

The materials that Rachel chooses for these projects are relatively easy to find, too. For most of the projects, you probably have the necessary seed beads and findings already in your stash. (The only things I really need to purchase are the rose montees and the chaton montees.) Seed beads in various colors? Check. Loads of Swarovski bicones? Check. Loads of Swarovski Rivolis? Double check. I'm pretty much ready to roll!

The book itself is visually striking. Lark does such an amazing job of layouts and photographs and formatting, you will want to read this book over and over.

And speaking of reading this book over and over...

After the first look-through, I felt this desire to make every single project in it. And I've been watching the movie "Julie/Julia" a lot lately. So why not, I thought, bead my way through every project in this book and blog about it? Rachel is such a pioneer in creative beadweaving that it would be an amazing learning experience to actually make all 23 projects in this book. I realized what a truly brilliant artist Rachel was while I was working my way through a series of kits for the projects in her first book, Seed Bead Fusion. If I worked my way through every project in this book, I would learn a heck of a lot.

So I'm going to do it. The first thing that I did was to set up a database that had a list of all the materials needed for each project and sources for them. (And if anyone has a good source for those rose montees and chaton montees, please share!)

Rondo Neckpiece from Rachel Nelson-Smith's Bead Riffs. If anyone has a good online source for those sparkly rose montees, PLEASE share it with me!

I'm giving myself a year to complete all the projects, which I think should be plenty of time, considering everything else that needs to get done on a daily basis around here. That breaks down to two projects per month, approximately. For some of the more intricate projects, I'll probably have to multi-task and work on more than one project at a time. We'll see how that works out!

At any rate, in my haste to get my copy of Rachel's new book, I wound up with two copies of Seed Bead Riffs. Guess what that means? I'm giving one of them away! Here ya go: leave a comment on this post, along with an email where I can contact you. Tell me what you love the most about beads and beadweaving, and on Monday, September 12, I'll randomly pick a winner. If you want more than once chance to win, spread the love: share this link on Facebook, Twitter or your own blog and come back and leave a comment telling me where you shared it with the link.

Have you ever enjoyed a good beading challenge? What kind of project was it? How did you do?

Friday, September 02, 2011


The damage from this hurricane was devastating. I still can't believe it, even though I've seen the pictures on Facebook and heard from my friends who sustained major damages to their homes and businesses. The AuSable River, which runs in a valley about half a mile down the hill from our house, rose to its highest level on record: 19 feet. Flood stage is around 7 feet. Folks who made it through our crazy spring flooding with little or no damage were completely taken by surprise during this storm. There are still parts of our area that do not have electricity, and many people are running short on water and food. There are National Guard units working with the Army Corps of Engineers, the DOT and the DEC to stabilize and repair roads that were washed away by the floodwaters and to clean up the fuel oil and heating fuel that were spilled when fuel tanks were ripped away from homes and torn up by the river.

Tom and I drove on the bridge that crosses the AuSable River over on Stickney Bridge Road and saw the roof of a vehicle smashed up against the trees on the river banks. I've seen toilets, fuel tanks, tires, bicycles, shovels, mattresses and television sets among the debris along the river banks.

Our community library in Upper Jay was completely demolished. Because it was so close to the river, the flood waters got into the building and destroyed over 50% of their collection of books, along with all of their computers and most of the historical records kept by the library. At my favorite local bakery in Upper Jay, the entire front of the building was torn off and the owner's 12-day-old car was picked up and smashed against his home. Two antique stores in Upper Jay were completely destroyed by the flood, and one of them had a huge tree fall down through the center of the building. The Land of Make Believe, the first theme park in the United States by artist Arto Monaco, was completely washed away and no longer exists. In nearby Keene, that town is still cut off from the rest of the world because the roads have just been washed away by the flood waters.

I think what bothers me the most about all of this is that the businesses that were damaged were all locally-owned businesses. We're not talking about major conglomerates like Lowe's or Sears or Starbucks, where there are deep corporate pockets to repair damages and get business going again. Most of these businesses depend on locals and summer visitors, and with the Labor Day weekend coming up and most of the roads around here still closed, I don't know how they are going to be able to survive this without some serious help.

The community response to the floods has been overwhelming, and that's one of the things that I love about living in a small community like this. There are food stations set up for people who can't cook meals anymore because of the flood, and the local building supply company is offering a discount on all supplies for Irene-related damage. Gotta love the North Country...